Ag ed­u­ca­tion, out­reach Har­vest Break­fast topic

Record Observer - - NEWS - By KRIS­TIAN JAIME [email protected]­pub.com

CEN­TRE­VILLE — For the 29th year, the Queen Anne’s County Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Univer­sity of Mary­land Ex­ten­sion joined to dis­cuss com­merce and crops at the an­nual Har­vest Break­fast Fri­day, Nov. 30. The event fea­tured a se­ries of pre­sen­ta­tions ex­plain­ing “How Ex­ten­sion Works for You.”

It in­cluded Jenny L. Rhodes, ex­ten­sion ed­u­ca­tor for Agri­cul­ture and Nat­u­ral Re­sources for the Univer­sity of Mary­land; Rachel Rhodes, Ex­ten­sion Queen Anne’s County Mas­ter Gard­ner co­or­di­na­tor and Hor­ti­cul­tural ed­u­ca­tor for the Univer­sity of Mary­land; Ash­ley K. Mclaugh­lin, Food Sup­ple­ment Nutri­tion Ed­u­ca­tion project leader for Queen Anne’s and Caro­line coun­ties; and Chris­tine John­ston, ex­ten­sion ed­u­ca­tor 4-H for Queen Anne’s County.

Lastly, it in­cluded re­marks from Jim Han­son, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor for the Univer­sity of Mary­land Ex­ten­sion Col­lege of Agri­cul­ture and Nat­u­ral Re­sources and a do­na­tion pre­sen­ta­tion to Steven M. Sch­walb, di­rec­tor of the Mary­land Food Bank – Eastern Shore Branch.

“We work with the Cham­ber of Com­merce to bring every­one to­gether be­cause we’re all in busi­ness to­gether,” said Jenny Rhodes. “The idea this morn­ing was to give peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity to meet and talk about their busi­ness. Our job is to ed­u­cate the peo­ple about agri­cul­ture in our county. Peo­ple know ex­ten­sion is here, but don’t re­ally now what we do.”

What started as a meet­ing in a side room with a mere 10 peo­ple has now grown to a yearly event that drew over 150 peo­ple.

In dis­cussing with farm­ers what they wanted the univer­sity to do most, the an­swers were clear and re­sound­ing. They wanted the pro­gram to teach what agri­cul­ture is, help farm­ers deal with reg­u­la­tions and be the county agri­cul­tural re­source for any­one who needs it.

That in­cludes do­ing press and at­tend­ing meet­ings with farm­ers to dis­cuss their eco­nomic im­pact. It also means hold­ing events where dif­fer­ent mem­bers of the busi­ness com­mu­nity can come to­gether and dis­cuss how to help farm­ers.

For younger par­tic­i­pants, there’s agri­cul­ture aware­ness days now in their third year. Ag Aware­ness Days in­clude 16 or­ga­ni­za­tions that came to­gether to ed­u­cate over 600 mem­bers of the pub­lic in the county.

“What we call agri­cul­ture lit­er­acy is ar­guably one of the most im­por­tant things we’re ad­dress­ing in 4-H and Ex­ten­sion,” said John­ston. “There are peo­ple who have no idea where their food comes from and oth­ers liv­ing a food deserts which leads to food in­se­cu­rity. The 4-H Youth Devel­op­ment Pro­gram spends much time with our tra­di­tional 4-H pro­grams and also dur­ing in­school op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

A strong com­po­nent of agri­cul­tural lit­er­acy dis­cussed at the break­fast was the need for nu­tri­tional ed­u­ca­tion.

“Ex­ten­sion of­fers a va­ri­ety of pro­grams and nutri­tion is very im­por­tant be­cause that ties into agri­cul­ture,” said Mclaugh­lin. “Farm­ers that pro­duce our food and those who eat it are equally de­pen­dent on one an­other. We part­ner with lo­cal farm­ers and farm­ers mar­kets to tie the nu­tri­tional and eco­nomic end to­gether. We also have the farm to school ini­tia­tive to start ed­u­ca­tion early.”

That oc­curs through cook­ing demon­stra­tions

and al­low­ing the farm­ers mar­kets to advertise to wider au­di­ences. The goal, ac­cord­ing to Mclaugh­lin, is to ad­dress obe­sity in the state. Cur­rently, treat­ing the numer­ous health prob­lems linked to obe­sity has costs the state $3 bil­lon.

Ac­cord­ing to data col­lected by the Univer­sity of Mary­land Ex­ten­sion, for ev­ery one dol­lar spent on nutri­tion ed­u­ca­tion, $10 can be saved in longterm health care costs.

The fi­nal as­pect of out­reach and ed­u­ca­tion is learn­ing from the most qual­i­fied grow­ers avail­able. That has pre­cip­i­tated 20 coun­ties in the state that al­ready have a Mas­ter Gard­ner pro­gram.

Aside from pro­vid­ing non-bi­ased, re­search-based data to sup­port en­vi­ron­men­tally sound de­ci­sions, the mis­sion of Mas­ter Gard­ner pro­gram is to the ed­u­cate the pub­lic who are not tra­di­tional farm­ers about the im­por­tance of the grow­ing nu­tri­tional food.

Queen Anne’s County started its pro­gram in 1998 and was com­prised of 25 in­terns from across the Eastern Shore. It was the first to start such an or­ga­ni­za­tion with Tal­bot County fol­low­ing suit eight years later.

“We’ve trained over 1,800 peo­ple to be Mas­ter Gard­ners on the Eastern Shore. In Queen Anne’s County ex­clu­sively, they have vol­un­teered over 65,000 hours, or $1.6 mil­lion in in­come, back to the county. To­day we have 65 ac­tive Mas­ter Gard­ners, 20 in­terns and 16 Emer­i­tus Mas­ter Gard­ners,” said Rachel Rhodes.

Han­son pro­vided an over­view of the Univer­sity of Mary­land Ex­ten­sion and its ex­pan­sive pro­grams. In terms of im­pact on a lo­cal level, through 4-H par­tic­i­pants alone, they have worked with 50,000 stu­dents statewide.

The ar­ray of ini­tia­tives now of­fered in­clude science tech­nol­ogy en­gi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics pro­grams and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­grams. Their fo­cus also teaches nat­u­ral re­source man­age­ment and hor­ti­cul­ture.

“We work with all farm­ers whether they are be­gin­ning, small, pro­duc­tion, women in agri­cul­ture and these are all dif­fer­ent clien­tele. So it’s a much more com­plex grid. There a strong value added with the num­ber of our part­ners, so all ex­ten­sion is lo­cal,” con­cluded Han­son.

At the end of the morn­ing’s pro­gram, $1,500 was an­nounced as the to­tal do­na­tion from the break­fast to the Mary­land Food Bank – Eastern Shore Branch, which will go to fund 4,500 meals.

PHOTO BY KRIS­TIAN JAIME

Jenny L. Rhodes, ex­ten­sion ed­u­ca­tor for Agri­cul­ture and Nat­u­ral Re­sources for the Univer­sity of Mary­land, spoke about the var­i­ous ex­ten­sion pro­grams.

Ash­ley K. Mclaugh­lin, FSNE project leader for Queen Anne’s and Caro­line coun­ties, dis­cussed the need for out­reach to teach where food sources orig­i­nate.

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